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Wahoo's Elemnt Roam and Garmin's Edge 530 are both companies’ latest GPS bike computers.

I’ve had a Wahoo Elemnt Roam since September last year and used it extensively on my winter bike during the colder months. However, due to some problems with the Wahoo and my SRM power meter (see notes at the end), I moved to a Garmin Edge 530 when the weather got a bit warmer and my summer bike came of out storage. They’re both great products, but quite different in their setup and use. Here are some of my thoughts after a few months of using both.

Initial Setup

Wahoo Elemnt uses a phone app to set up the device. This lets you choose which fields to be displayed, connect to the WiFi network, and configure any cloud services such as dropbox or Strava. Once the initial setup is complete, you don’t really need to use the app, although it does provide quite a good summary of each ride’s data.

The Edge 530 needs to be mostly configured on the device itself. This is quite a bit more fiddly than using the Wahoo app. 

Adding sensors to be devices is pretty straight-forward. Go to the search for a new sensor, then add it once it's found. Renaming the sensors is an absolute joy on the Elemnt using the phone app, compared with the Edge, when you need to select each letter on the device screen.

The Elemnt also takes considerably longer than the Edge to power up, probably because of its Android roots.

Display Setup

The Elemnt has a set of screens that can be cycled through using the Page button. Each screen has the concept of ‘Zooming’ to show more or fewer fields on the screen, with the size of each field shrinking to allow more to be displayed. If you use different bikes with different sensor types (i.e. one bike has a power meter & Di2, while the other doesn’t), you’ll find yourself setting up separate screens for each one. This isn’t quite as ’clean’ as to how it's handled on the Edge. 

The Edge has Profiles that let you have a set of screens for each setup, i.e., Road Bike, Mountain Bike, etc. Each profile can have its own set of display fields. There’s also a number of ‘screens’ for each profile that you can cycle through using the buttons on the size of the device or using the hood buttons on Di2 shifters.

Garmin also has CIQ fields which are mini-apps that run on the device and can read data – these range from novelty ones, such as the number of beers earned, or slices of pizza burned off, to more advanced, such as specialised training metrics beyond those built-in to the device.

Getting the Data off the Device

The Edge has several ways to access its data: the device has Wi-Fi and will upload to Garmin Connect as soon as it can connect to one of the specified networks after a ride; it can upload via iPhone app, or it can be connected to a computer and appear as a USB drive – Garmin Express software handles uploading to Garmin Connect, or the data files can be accessed and uploaded to cloud services manually. 

The first two methods are great when Garmin’s servers are running, but, as millions found out recently, when they’re down, it’s really hard to access your data. If you use Strava or Training Peaks, for example, then your data needs to go to Garmin’s servers first before it’s sent onto the services. This isn’t the case with the Elemnt.

The Elemnt also has Wi-Fi built-in and can upload to a number of different services, including Training Peaks and Strava. It can also upload your files to Dropbox, meaning you’ve got a local copy of your data, something that Garmin doesn’t provide ‘out of the box’. As far as I know, there’s no Wahoo-controlled server element of this, so there shouldn’t be something to fail there.

The Elemnt can’t be connected to a computer to get the files on it – at least not easily. The Elemnt runs a version of the Android phone operating system. There are apps that will access the data, but that’s another step, compared with Garmin.

What Garmin needs to do is update their phone apps to save the data somewhere locally, so that it can be accessed and opening in other apps for analysis or uploaded to cloud services.

Both devices produce .fit (Flexible and Interoperable Data Transfer) format files which are pretty much universally accepted by most training software.

In Use

There’s not much to choose between the devices in use. Note that I haven’t used either of them for following a preloaded route, so I can’t comment on any differences there. Both are a similar size and have a decent-sized screen. Neither has a touch screen, relying on buttons along the sides of the Edge and at the bottom of the screen on the Elemnt.

Notes

As mentioned above, initially, I had problems using the Elemnt with my SRM power meter. This is an older SRM model, probably 2011 or 2012 vintage. Wahoo support wasn’t all that helpful, so I gave up with it and just used it on my winter bike which doesn’t have a power meter. Recently I discovered that some of the latest Wahoo updates addressed the SRM problem, and I’ve been trying it alongside my Edge on my road bike. I’ll report back once I’ve got a decent amount of data to compare. This isn’t an indication of issues with other power meters – my Elemnt works absolutely fine with my Garmin Vector 3.

Also, the Wi-Fi on the Element will only connect to channel 9 and below. Many Wi-Fi routers (mine included) will automatically assign the channel, so this may cause some problems. In my case the Elemnt would occasionally not connect – this was due to the router having switched to a channel higher than 9. Once I changed the router setup to use a fixed channel, all was good. I'm not sure if the Edge has the same limitation - I haven't come across it.

Over on the Yellow Field Technologies blog, there's details of the WordPress Plugin that I use here to display my Garmin data, like the one below.

Have look here: http://yellowfield.co.uk/blog/index.php/2020/02/23/wordpress-plugin-to-show-fit-files/

Time:
06-Feb-17 9:10 am
Duration:
06:04:17
Distance:
84.74 km

Up in my part of the world, training outside in the evenings (and some days) is pretty difficult between October and April. During this period, I rely on my Turbo trainer for cycling fitness. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated room for my training, albeit in our outbuilding.

TacxNeo

Neo Trainer

Late last year, I upgraded by mid-2000’s vintage Tacx Flow to a Tacx Neo. The Neo is a direct-drive trainer, meaning that the bike connects directly to it, rather than the bike’s rear wheel resting on a roller, like in a traditional turbo trainer. My last trainer did have controllable resistance, but it was from a time when few trainers had a computer connection. Having the trainer controller by the software has made a big difference to my experience on the trainer.

Zwift

Since I got the Tacx Neo I’ve been using Zwift. Prior to this, for the past couple of winters, I’ve used the Sufferfest, first just the videos, then the app once that was released. While the sufferfest provides a good workout, it didn’t provide anything for unstructured, ‘just cycling along’ days. With Zwift, there’s the option to just cycle the roads of the worlds they provide.

Of course, the latest Sufferfest provides much more than just training sessions, providing yoga and weight training sessions as well.

There’s a number of VR-type cycling apps on the market now, including Bkool, Road Grand Tour and others. Zwift works well for me, and I’d rather spent my time training, then trying out other apps. For a good review of the various options, have a look at DCRainmaker’s trainer software review.

Computer/Keyboard/Monitor/Adaptors

I’m using my main laptop, a 2018 Macbook Pro, along with an Apple keyboard (MB869LL/A). The keyboard has two USB ports, one at each end. Into one I’ve plugged a cheap mouse, and to the other, a Suunto ANT+ adaptor. The Macbook needs to have a keyboard connected to run in clamshell mode (i.e., lid closed). Although a Bluetooth one will work, I used a wired one as it allows me to use a cheap mouse and also provides a port for the ANT+ dongle. I’ve also got an additional power adaptor for the laptop to save having to drag one out every time I’m training.

I’ve got a BenQ 21” monitor (GL2250HM) that I picked up cheap on Amazon, and a stand to hold the laptop vertically so that it takes up less space on the worktop (the unit is an old kitchen unit from our house). A plethora of USB-C adaptors are used to connect these – I swear the adaptors cost more than the laptop!

WiFi is provided by a TP-Link PowerLine adaptor connected back to the Internet router in our house.

I’ve got Honeywell fan from Amazon which sits on the desk to provide some cooling airflow. To control the fan (only On/Off), I’ve got an Eve Homekit switch – this means I can turn the fan on and off without having to dismount from the training, using an app on my iPhone. In the winter, it’s a bit too cold to have the fan on from the start of the session, and I usually need 10 -15 minutes warming up before it goes on.

On the bike, I’m using a Tacx Sweat Cover with an iPhone pouch on it. In Zwift, there’s a companion app that runs on iOS and lets you control aspects of Zwift without using the mouse or keyboard. I also use the iPhone to control my fan.

ZwiftSetup

Performance

The setup works very well. However, looking the zwift logs in zwiftilizer.com, it looks like the distance between the Neo and the ANT dongle might be on the limit, as the log files show some dropouts, although I haven’t noticed this either when using zwift or in the .fit files when reviewing at them later. This may also be due to the TP-Link WiFi base being too close to the ANT dongle as both of these work on the 2.4 GHz frequency. I probably need to check exactly what channel the WiFi is using as well, as it’s recommended to uses channels 1-5 to avoid interference with ANT+ and to definitely avoid Channel 10, as it’s exactly the same frequency that ANT uses. Using 5 GHz WiFi is also an option, although I don’t think my current TP-Link unit supports that.

With my 2018 Macbook pro, I’m getting 60 frames per second on average, using the 720 & basic settings in Zwift. I need to experiment with higher settings, but I always forget to do this before starting the Zwift session!

Conclusions

The change to using a Neo and Zwift has certainly enhanced my training this winter. If nothing else, it’s motivated me to training more often, which can only be a good thing. Getting the environment right also reduces the friction to getting going for a session.

Another training camp is over. We had a fantastic two weeks at Club la Santa. The first week was the Spring Triathlon camp with Joe Beer and Dan Bullock, and the second was intented to be a bit of a holiday, but ended up being a training week as well, albeit with a sight-seeing trip to Timanfaya National Park.

Totals for the Camp:

Cycling: 22 hrs 30 mins 418km
Running: 6 hrs 11 mins 49.8km
Swimming: 5 hrs 05 mins 5500m

It’s been a bit quiet here recently, mainly as I didn't race for all of 2016 – this wasn’t really intentional, just how things worked out. I was too late signing up for some races, and others were cancelled for this year. I’ve still biked and ran as much as ever, and probably swam the most I have for a long time.

Anyway, I’ve set some targets for this year, including the Inverness Marathon in September, my first attempt at this distance. To kick-start the year, I’m off the Joe Beer’s Training Camp in Lanzarote soon.

After last year’s incident with the baggage handlers, I decided to take some extra precautions when packing my bike this year. Firstly, I got some pipe lagging to protect the tubes of the frame – it’s available in a number of sizes and should fit most bikes – I got mine off eBay for about £12 for five 1m lengths of various sizes.
The second change to the packing was that I bought a set of Allen key wheel skewers, eliminating the chance of the lever end damaging the frame, should the baggage handlers again try their best to bust my bike.
Update: The bike arrived in Lanzarote without any damage.

Packed Bike Box

 

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On Sunday, I ran my first half-marathon for nine years, the Fare Challenge. The event is an off-road race, held on the Hill of Fair at Raemoir, near Banchory, in Aberdeenshire. It was also the first time I’d raced off-road. There were 5k, 10k and half-marathon distance events on at the same time, all of them initially following the same route.

Coming into the race, my training hadn’t been up to the volume I’d have liked, having only had 4 runs since the Baker-Hughes 10k in May, the longest of which was 11km. I had toyed with the idea of swapping my entry for a 10k one, but eventually decided just to give the half a try.

Prior to the start, I met with a couple of old friends who were doing the 10k route. The general consensus was that the 10k route was about 15 minutes slower than a road run, and the half route was about 30 minutes slower. My last half marathon time was about 2:10, and, given my limited training, I’d be happy with 2:40 for this race.

I lined up at the start towards the back, as the 5k and 10k was also starting at the same time. The route led away from the start into the surrounding woods and immediately started to climb. The previous night’s rain meant that the track we were running on were quite muddy. The first 5km were a continuous climb  up to the highest point of the route at about 450m. At that point, we were clear of the trees and the route led around the hill on fairly wide landrover tracks.  After an out-and-back section at 12 km, we moved onto a single track and descended towards the finish. The finish line was visible from the 12 mile marker, but the route cruelly went back up the hill a short way before descending to the finish. I crossed the line in 2:42:58, pretty much as predicted.

It’s a great race – certainly the longest run I’ve done for a long time, possibly ever. I’ll pencil it into my race calendar for next year. One slightly disappointing note (and not the fault of the organisers) was the number of gel packets littering the route – if you can carry the gels, then you can carry the empty packets back with you – it’s not hard.

Yesterday saw the running of the Baker-Hughes 10k in Aberdeen. I’ve completed this event many times in the past, but for this year I had high hopes of a fast time.

Back in March, I’d finished the Garioch 10k in 52:xx, my. fastest 10k for quite a while. Given that the Inverurie-based event is run over quite a hilly course, I thought I might manage to break the 50 minute barrier in Aberdeen, given that it’s a much fkatter course.

Leading up to the race, my training had gone Ok

We arrived at the start an hour-or-so before the off, as the traffic can be a bit of a problem around the beach. My wife went off to meet one of her friends and I warmed up along the beach front, running into an old running friend who was currently injured, Steve Mitchell.

As start time approached, I lined up in the 50-55 minute corral, then waited to cross the line a few minutes after the gun. I’d seeded myself better than in the past and had less of a problem getting held up by slower runners in the first mile-or-so.

For the first few km, it looked like I was on course for my target time – I eventually went through 5km in just under 25 minutes, and felt ok until the 6km marker came up, where I started to get an upset stomach. At this point, I had to slow down to keep running, hoping that the upset would reduce and I’d be able to speed up again. Unfortunately, every increase in speed brought the upset back again, and I eventually slowed to a walk going up the only hill on the route at the 9km mark. Once over the brow of the hill, I was able to start running again and crossed the finishing line in 55:18.

Not the result I’d hoped for, but you can only do what your body will let you on the day.

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Today was the tenth running on the Garioch 10k. I've taken part in a couple of the previous events, my last one being in 2013.

The race is based in Inverurie, about 15 miles from my house. The weather wasn't great for today's race, but it was better than two years ago, when the course for the half-marathon event had to be altered beacuse of snow and the temperature was about 2 Deg C with a -7 Deg Windchill! At least it was only raining today and about 6 defgress.

Coming into the race, I'd had the feeling that I could have a good race (for me) - the previous weekend, I'd run a 1 hr 10k in training, only pushing the pace for a couple of stand-alone kms.

I wasn't too sure what the wear, given the weather, but I settled for shorts and a long sleeve 2XU top with a short sleeve Nike top over it - I thorught that tights would be too hot and a rain jacket would just get too sweaty at race pace.

After a queue for the porta-loos, where I saw a couple of old workmates who were doing the half-marathon, it was time to line up for the start - I seeded myself in the 50 minute group.

The first part of the run takes you through Inverurie towards the hospital, and then turns out into the countryside past the Polinar dam at the 4 km mark. I'd managed to keep a fairly good pace to this point, slowing only for the climb. From there, there's a slight climb up to the water station at 5 kms, then a descent as the route returns to Inverurie. At the 7 km point, the route passed the starting point at the Garoich sports centre. At this point, my watch read about 36 minutes, so I knew I was one for a good time, unless times went badly wrong.

Once the route returns to the sports centre, it winds its way thorught a housing estate for 3 kms before the finish - there's quite a long hill in this portion where my pace slowed down a bit, before recovering as the route descended, and then returned to the finish.

Final time was 52:47, about 5 minutes quicker than my last outing in 2013, and probably my quickest 10k since 2000. I'm more than pleased with that result!